Thursday, August 7, 2008


Loyal readers,

I've moved from blogger to typepad, for a few reasons. One is the flexibility and control over the blog, the layout, and the content. Another is the very Mac-like feeling of the typepad website and publishing tools (even if I do have to use Firefox to publish my posts… sigh). And finally, because typepad has a really cool iPhone app that lets me publish blog entries with MULTIPLE PHOTOS (gasp) and even to categorize them on post! I know, shocking.

Oh and it allowed me to do something I've been wanting to do for years on blogger… MERGE BLOGS! Yep, if you haven't found my other blog (this one was noticeably quiet but still had some photo-specific action on it), I have been doing most of my posting on another site. Well, now they're all together in one big happy family.

So blogger comes to a close. Soon will point to the new site, but in the meantime you can visit it at -- see you there!

RSS FEEDS -- I've had a question on this already; yes you'll have to re-sub to the RSS feeds, sorry. And if you do it now, you'll have to do it again when the proper domain parks on the new site. Sorry for the hassle folks… I don't know that there's any way around it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Canon 1Ds Mk III: auto-noise reduction & UDMA cards

I've been using the new Canon 1Ds Mk III recently, and as with pretty much any gear I play with, one of the first things I'll do is dig through the preferences/ settings of the kit. After setting up the Mk III as I wanted it, I went out to take my first shots. One thing I noticed right away was that I was only getting two shots off before the buffer was filled! When you look through the viewfinder of this camera (as on most Canon pro cameras), you'll see a display of how many frames you can fire sequentially before the buffer fills and your fps drops below maximum.

Anyway on this 1Ds Mk III I was seeing only two. (I never did switch to JPG to see what I'd get there, as I'm not really interested in JPG shooting on this camera). My first thought was that this was because my CF card wasn't fast enough. Even though my cards are Lexar 2GB 133x cards, they are not UDMA cards. I basically accepted that this was the case (these are 21megapixel files after all), shrugged my shoulders and picked up a UDMA card.

Imagine my surprise when the UDMA card made no difference. So I started looking through the settings, trying to figure out what the problem could be. Digging back into the C Fn's (Custom Functions), I noticed that I had both Long Exposure (C. Fn II-1) and High ISO (C. Fn II-2) noise reduction turned on. I know that the idea behind the long exposure noise reduction is that the camera will process for as long as the exposure was; i.e., a 20 second exposure means a 20 second post-process before it's written to the card. OK.

Just out of interest I turned them both off. And guess what… up shot my continuous exposure count to 12! And in reality, it's more like 15.

This smelled like a bug to me. Because even at ISO 100, if I turn on High ISO reduction, the count drops to 4. Turn it off, it goes back to 12. ISO 100 does not count as high ISO!

Likewise, turn on long exposure noise reduction to "auto" or "on", and it drops to 10 frames in display. This is with a manual exposure set to ISO 100, f/2.8 1/8000th second. Not exactly a long exposure. And it actually stops after 11 shots fired.

So obviously this demanded some research. After some digging, here's the information I came up with. Even though the camera does not utilize the noise reduction at exposures under one second, having it enabled still affects the cameras buffer performance -- and this has been the case in all EOS bodies. The user should not have to turn this on or off if the exposure goes over or under one second, so IMHO this qualifies as a bug.

As far as the High ISO noise reduction, this is a misleading term as when enabled it does process the files differently at ALL ISOs. The higher the ISO the greater the correction, but even at ISO 100 it is handling the files differently to optimize image quality and keep noise to a minimum. This is why the buffer is reduced in this case.

So what's better, let the camera do the noise reduction, or let Aperture do it ('cause that's the software you're using, right?!). If you're shooting RAW, the noise reduction is NOT embedded into the file (thank goodness). Apparently you can alter the embedded reduction settings using Canon's Digital Photo Professional software (never used it myself), or if you're using Aperture (or anything else) to do the RAW decode, that camera data is thrown away and the software does its own thing.

So the short answer is… if you're shooting RAW, turn off the noise filters. If you're shooting JPEG, turn it on. Of course in my not-so-humble opinion, there are only fringe example reasons of why you would shoot JPEG anymore. It's all about the RAW file, baby.

As far as the UDMA / non-UDMA cards are concerned, it turns out that until the buffer is filled you will not see the write speed of the card in action. This will only be visible when the red "writing data" light is on and you see how fast the images are transferred to the card from the buffer. Basically the real question is not how fast you can shoot to the buffer, but how fast can the buffer transfer to the card and clear it for new shots. To test this, just hold down the shutter release on continuous for a set amount of time. In a test of one minute, with my Lexar 133x card I was able to take 64 pictures in one minute; with the Lexar 300x UDMA card I was able to take 77 shots in the one minute. This is a substantial improvement! Of course I think this would be more interesting in a camera like the 1D Mk III, which is all about shooting as many frames per second as possible.

So did I need the UDMA card? For my purposes, no. BUT I now have an 8GB card, which with a 21Mpixel camera is handy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Barack Obama in San Francisco

Barack Obama spoke at the Billy Graham Civic Auditorium last night on November 14, 2007. After nearly three hours in line outside, I got in and pushed my way near the front on the floor. People tend to get out the way of a big lens.

I was able to move around a bit, but not without some resistance. Oh well, all in the name of getting an image.

These are all shot on the Canon 5D, 70-200 f/4.0 lens. It was fun to shoot the president. Wait that came out wrong… it was fun to photograph the next president! (I actually was talking to a photographer who does follow the current president and photographs him regularly, and asked him how the secret service thinks of that term, because of course photographers always "shoot" things. He chuckled and said they get used to it).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fleet Week 2007, San Francisco

Last weekend was Fleet Week here in San Francisco, and as always it was a blast. This year I decided to try to get a different angle on things, and so took the ferry to Angel Island to shoot from there.

View Larger Map

Shore to shore is about 3 miles, so it's not exactly close. A 400mm f/4.0 on a Canon 1D Mark III made for a 520mm equivalent, so a good telephoto but still pretty wide at 3 miles. This is a wide view of where I was shooting from… the iconic Transamerica Building is in that clump of skyscrapers to the left of the frame, just to the right of the Bay Bridge.

Mix in the typical haze for looking over salt water and the smoke left behind by all the planes, and that adds up to a pretty hazy shooting environment. I got some decent shots, nothing award winning but it was still a fantastic day. The weather was gorgeous, and I spent it outdoors shooting the Blue Angels from an island. Not bad for a days work.

One of the more exciting maneuvers was when one of the Blue Angels flew the length of the Bay, barely off the deck! You'll have to click through to the gallery to see a sequence, but here's a teaser… you can see the plane amongst the boats, and the tail of water she's pulling behind her!

Another beautiful day on the Bay.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

IHF needs help!

I woke up this morning to find this email in my inbox from Carol Sasaki, founder of IHF.

Dear Volunteers and Sponsors,

IHF is currently in an extremely vulnerable financial situation. I am being told by board members that there is simply not enough money this month to continue providing for all the children in my centres. I cannot let this happen. I cannot tell any child that they must leave because there is not enough money. I cannot tell them that they have not been picked when they have been told this so many times before. I am determined to prevent this from happening and I hope that by revealing to you all the true situation of IHF, you too will feel my determination. This letter, therefore, comes to you as an urgent appeal for help.

I am pleading with you, with whatever dignity I have left, to come up with enough money for at least one class ($30) and donate it today. This month, IHF's children depend on it. For next month onwards, I am asking you to please make it your personal duty to find at least one sponsor. If everyone who received this email did this, IHF would survive and thrive. We need to just make it until February when we have regular funds guaranteed. It would be absurd to for IHF to fall apart now.

Please, please, if you are in denial, let this email be a wake up call. Please help ensure the future of IHF, by going to

Yours Faithfully,


I already volunteer many hours to this organization, as well as the photo trip to Kenya I did on their behalf, and am additionally going to sponsor a child now because of this situation.

Just to drive the point home, these are photos of children who are not under the care of IHF.

And these are children who are.

Yes, you can make a difference.

Please, if you can, help.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

More Baseball

I shot another game yesterday. A couple of fun shots out of it. These kids are going through bats like nuthin'!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Canon EOS-1D Mark III baseball results

I learned a few things about the camera and about shooting baseball (not something I've done before)…

  1. The camera is pretty impressive. It maintained focus very well, even doing a good job tracking runners coming almost straight towards me. Obviously it lost a few, but for the most part it did a good job.
  2. I know this camera is getting panned for not focusing well in low light, but frankly how many sporting events are shot in low light? Baseball is fast. Really fast. Even shooting at 10fps, there are many sequences of shots where I have to think to myself… what happened to the ball??
  3. The camera isn't forgiving on overexposed highlights, even shooting RAW. My best exposures are the darker ones. Seems like it might be a better idea to shoot a bit underexposed and lift in Aperture. Which is nice for sports frankly; you'll gain a bit of shutter speed.
  4. I need to go out and shoot another game!
Check out that bat!
Here is a small [gallery]

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Canon 1D Mark III

Playing with the new 1D Mark III. Seriously cool gear.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A "welcome letter" for future Pokot visitors

I thought this would be fun to share. I've written a (lengthy!) letter/document on "what to expect in Kenya", written for the western traveler, which will be included in a "new volunteers manual" that the IHF is working on.

Probably a good read for anyone going into the wild of a developing nation!

It's too long to just drop in the blog, so you can read it here.

Shooting the album cover for Home Again

I had a business trip to LA last week and took some time aside to photograph my friend and colleague Scott Wilkie for his upcoming solo album release, Home Again. The album is a beautiful collection of original solo piano music, blending jazz and pop. His previous albums are available on the iTunes Store [link], and this one will be released this summer.

Here are a few selects from the shoot, some of which will be coming soon to an album near you.

[Edit] If anyone can tell me how to not have Blogger strip the color profile from the preview icon (the ones you see below), please let me know. Click through and you see the images properly; on these small views they look rubbish. *sigh*. Hmm and it appears that Firefox doesn't honor the color profile anyway. Browse in Safari! You are using a Mac, right? ;-) *ahem*